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A decadent Saturday – Selfridge’s Oyster Bar

My sister and her fiancée were visiting this past weekend and we wanted to do something nice. We ended up being extremely decadent indeed, starting in the morning at Ladurée in Harrod’s, moving onto the Oyster & Champagne Bar in Selfridge’s for smoked salmon and champagne and finishing with a beautiful Japanese meal in Sushi-Say in Willesden. It was more decadent than I have ever been in my life, I really must make more of a habit of these little treats. Occasionally, of course ;)

I am going to talk about Sushi-Say in it’s own post later as it deservss it’s own space and I have a few pictures of the beautiful food to share. I only had macarons in Ladurée and I’ve done that before so we’ll get back to that at another time. For now, I want to talk about the smoked salmon in Selfridge’s.

I have passed by the Oyster and Champagne bar in the Selfridge’s Food Hall countless times but it never appealed to me, it seems quite clinical thrown to the side of the cheese counter and, I’ve always thought that if I am going to be decadent it would be nicer to do it in better surroundings. My visitors really wanted to try some Oysters, however, and we were going to Selfridge’s anyway so it seemed like a good option for a quick stop. So, in we went and perused the menu. The smoked salmon looked great so we got that and some blue prawn salad. Also, some oysters, although I didn’t have any.

The smoked salmon was from Frank Hederman’s Belvelly Smokehouse
in Cobh, Cork (Ireland). I have heard about his smoked eel, it’s supposed to be beautiful and as there was no eel I had to have some of the salmon. It has got great credentials, they’re affiliated with the Slow Food Movement in Ireland, have been featured in the NY Times, Bridgestone Guides, Rick Stein’s Food Heroes and they supply Rick Stein & Ballymaloe among others.

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Parisian Local Food Market

While in Paris, I wandered into a local weekly food market by chance. It was fantastic and depressing. Why don’t we have these? Local people buying their weekly groceries, it was so relaxed and bountiful. The quality was fantastic and prices very reasonable. If we had one here people would travel miles to it. There were several fruit and veg stalls, a few cheese stalls, fish stalls, a charcuterie, boucherie, really everything you would need. The supermarket nearby was empty, why would you go? And to top it, it was surrounded by lovely food shops, 2 charcuteries, a chocolatiers, a boulangerie, to name but a few. Bring back proper food markets to the UK, I say! There should be one in every town.

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What is everyone else doing?

I participated in my first DMBLGIT competition, run at Spittoon Extra. The winners were fantastic and well deserved, an inspiration really.

Running with Tweezers has run a Summer Soup Challenge. There’s some beautiful entries (54 in all). I will definitely be trying some, particularly, confetti gazpacho at Kalyn’s Kitchen, an Asian spin on Matzoh Ball Soup from Arfi at HomeMadeS and Married with Dinner‘s Watermelon Gazpacho.

Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has posted a recipe for amazing looking vegetarian lentil burgers that is begging to be tried.

Haalo at Cook Almost Anything published a recipe for Ajo Blanco, a white gazpacho made with almonds, bread and garlic that I sought out in Spain and that I am very keen to try and make. It was published in March but I only found it recently through Becks & Posh who raved about it.

Ever have leftover egg whites? I did after recent making carbonara. David Lebowitz has published several recipes for using them, including a favourite, macarons.

At Eat my Globe, a foodies journey through middle age, Hermanos 1 has been to Hong Kong. It’s the kind of trip that I have always wanted to do so I am living it through him. I’ll do it eventually… I’ve mad a promise to myself.

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande has made a beautiful amaranth, quinoa & dark chocolate cake – it’s got to be healthy, right?!

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Homemade Pizza

I love good pizza. Everyone has their own take on what that is but for me it has a thin crispy base, good sauce (NOT tomato purée!) and simple but good quality toppings. It can be quite hard to find this so I like to make my own occasionally. It takes alot of time but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in doing it from scratch. Dissolving the yeast, seeing the dough take shape, and kneading & kneading it until the dough becomes stretchy and shiny and ready for a stint of relaxation while you make your sauce. It’s an arduous process, but one I am happy to indulge in when I have the time. And sometimes when I don’t, like last Saturday.

I had been preparing for a few days, stocking up on fresh yeast, Italian 00 flour, too many cheeses and various types of meat. A few words about these, Italian 00 flour is a must, if only because it’s what Italians use and they know what they’re doing. It’s a fine grind flour that’s high in gluten, which results in alot of bite. I take alot of time with my sauce as tomatoes test better the longer they’re cooked, this time however, I tried a new baked tomato sauce which needs very little attention and it worked really well. The toppings? Your pizza will be as good as these, I bought some San Daniele ham, as good as parma (if not better for my taste) but slightly darker and a little sweeter, some sliced piccante chorizo, some nice rocket, buffalo mozarella, a delicate fresh chevre, manchego (one of my favourites, you can substitute cheddar or something similar if you can’t get it), some really nice black olives & lots of basil.

pizza dough

So, what about the dough? Again, this can be a contentious issue. To add olive oil or not? I always used to but actually forgot it this time, and you know what? It was still really nice. So, I would say, really it’s up to you, but this time, I rolled my pizza really thin and the dough was really light and I can’t help but wonder if this was the absence of olive oil. I’ll know next time I make it and add it. I use fresh yeast, I think it gives better results & the dough rises better and faster. You can get it in health food shops normally, at least that’s where I get mine.

Push your domestic oven to it’s limits, heat it to the highest temperature, our flat was like a sauna! I like mine rustic, rolled as big and thin as I can get it and baked on a large tray that is the width of the oven. I am impatient and wanted to try everything so I made half and half pizzas so that I could try the flavours immediately.

homemade pizza

How was it? At the risk of sounding cocky, great. No other adjective required. Washed down with some delicious wine that I brought back from Paris and followed with a good film, a great Saturday night.

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Fast moving food – Potato, leek, broad bean & roquefort pie

So, we’re moving at the moment. I hate it and can’t wait until we’re finished and installed in our new home. It would probably be fine if it were not for my 200 odd cookbooks, 100’s of other books, cd’s… and all the other stuff that I have been hoarding for all of these years. I am being quite brutal and throwing lots of things towards the charity shop but none of the cookbooks! They must all stay.

To do this successfully, I need to eat speedy food. I am unwilling to compromise on taste so for the next few weeks expect to see quick pasta dishes, salads and pie! Open pies especially, so quick, with shop bought pastry it’s like making a fancy baked open sandwich. One pie I love to make is potato, leek, broad bean & roquefort pie. It’s so easy and the amounts I give you here you can change depending on which ingredients you favour more. I often make this with caramelised onions but time is of the essence so I sweated some leeks instead. I know the broad beans aren’t timely, but hey, they were in the fridge so in they went. I wanted it to be light, I have overindulged so much this last month that I needed some clean sharp flavours, but if you haven’t the same issue some cream or creme fraiche would work well here too. I served this with a nice salad. It was a tonic.

The potatoes deserve a special mention. I got them at The Potato Shop at Marylebone farmers market, they’re heritage potatoes – cherie red and have a lovely red skin which one cooked is very nutty, a lovely contrast to the flesh. Some info from their site:

Another continental variety, Cherie Red is popular in France, particularly as a baby salad potato. The skin is a deep red colour when washed, and the flesh is white with a floury texture. The tubers are a flattened oval shape and boil well. We sell a lot of these to lovers of red potatoes.

So yum and they really added alot to this pie. Any nice potatoes will work well of course, experiment.
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I eat like a pig

And I know I do but I am taking little comfort in the fact that people have recently been coming to my blog by searching “I eat like a pig” in search engines. It has put a smile on my face though and I thought that I would share :)

 (Photo originally published on flickr by Laurel Fan – http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/ and published here under creative commons licence) 

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Ode to a sausage roll!

A Ginger Pig sausage roll to be precise. I popped in to the Ginger Pig on Moxon St, Marylebone on one of my recent trips to the Sunday farmer’s market. It’s a wonderful old-school butchers and their pies and sausage rolls always looked amazing. So, I had to have one. At £3 a pop they seem pricey, but really, I could barely eat one by myself! They are huge and packed with juicy sausage meat, so intensely flavoursome with loads of pork fat. The pastry is crisp and buttery, really beautiful. It’s an indulgence! Try one some time :)

The Ginger Pig, Borough Market, London SE1 and 8-10 Moxon Street, London W1

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The Famous 4 Meme

I have been tagged for this meme by Margaret from Kitchen Delights and thought, why not?! Could be fun. Annemarie from Ambrosia & Nectar, Katie from Apple & Spice have already completed theirs. So, now it’s just me and Holler from Tinned Tomatoes.

4 Jobs I’ve held:

I work in New Media now as a Project Manager but I’ve had a few jobs in my time between summer jobs and jobs at university so I’ll stick to the eclectic :)

  1. Library Assistant
    I worked in the library at university for two years shelving books mainly. I worked 4 hour shifts, and loved it as it meant I was pottering in and out of bookshelves all the time. As a science student studying physiology I didn’t have much exposure to the Arts or Humanities so enjoyed looking at and flicking through the books to see what they were all about.
  2. Cleaner in a psychiatric ward/school in Munich, Germany
    Student summer job when I was 20. We went to Munich for the summer and lots of us ended up working as cleaners. Relative to Irish summer jobs it was very well paid. The Irish weren’t very popular in Munich at the time, due to our reputation for raucous behaviour and we lived in a tiny house in a campsite that looked like a human size birdhouse. We got up at (I think) 5.30am to make the long commute to the hospital to start work at 7am. I worked in the psychiatric ward which had it’s moments, the most intense when one patient moved all of his furniture out of the room and started shouting at me in German. I hadn’t very much German atall so couldn’t understand him and was advised by the psychiatrist to ignore him, which was pretty tough as he was following me up and down the corridor shouting! There was a very sweet man there who used to give me sweets, I think because I couldn’t speak the language he felt sorry for me and I also looked about 16 at the time! I was usually grateful for the sugar rush. I also worked with a lovely Bosnian lady that had fled the war, we communicated using a smidgen of Fernch and sign language. Not much food happenings there, my diet was appalling and most of my shopping money went towards beer. Ah, student life!
  3. Cook at a pizza restaurant in Cork, Ireland
    Having returned from a post-university stint travelling the mediteranean, I had absolutely no money and needed a job! A friend was working there at the time and secured me one. It was great fun, very busy at times and I had great room to experiment with food. As cook I had to make and roll the dough, prep, cook and dish out the food. Rolling the dough that first time was exhausting but I soon got the hang of it and developed muscles to boot. As a non-sporty kinda gal it was a first! There was quite a buzz when the restaurant was full and the adrenaline was rushing. I did enjoy it even if it was the worst paid job I have ever had.
  4. Callcenter operator in a callcenter in Cork
    Another badly paid job but I met some great people here. I worked here whilst studying for my MSc. I took some crazy calls for an Irish TV bingo show where one old lady accused me of trying to turn all the young boys of Ireland gay by allowing a transvestite to present the show (sigh & lol – I am sure he would laugh if he had heard the crazy call). We took calls for lots of other companies, English & Irish. It made for some great comedy moments, but also some of the most frustrating moments of my life. People can be extremely rude & nasty over the phone. This was my last job before turning towards career jobs at the end of my MSc.

4 Places I’ve lived:

  1. Nice
    At the tender age of 19 and after my first year of university I went to Nice for 6 weeks and stayed for the summer. It was my first time abroad and was a fantastic experience. We lived in a little studio off the Promenade des Anglais and my bedroom was in a mezzanine. It was all good bar an invasion by two salamanders at the start of August. I really got into food here, and not just French food, I hasd Vietnamese for the first time. The food highlight for me was when I went to Italy for 2 weeks at the end. It’s when I properly discovered pizza and good french omelettes, especially potato and fontina pizzas. Over that summer I put on 2 stone but luckily lost it again quite quickly with little effort but that’s the joy of being 19.
  2. Cork/Ireland
    I was born and raised in Waterford but spent many summer holidays in Cork where I really developed a love for food under the tutelage of my Aunt Kay. She had a fruit and veg garden and a greenhouse growing many things I didn’t even know you could grow at the time. It’s the first place that I had homemade potato salad, made jam having picked the berries, ate wild strawberries and raspberries from the hedgerow and on and on. I then went to University there and lived there for 8 years on and off. I love Cork, one of my favourite restaurants is there, Café Paradiso, the English Market is a foodie paradise with the lovely artisan food stalls mixed in with fishmongers and local butchers and the Farmgate Café sitting astride it. I could go on and on and I expect I will next time I go home and blog it!
  3. Amsterdam
    After my degree I moved to Amsterdam from September until just after xmas. There was a big group of us there and it was great fun. It’s a lovely city to live in, very bohemian with lots going on. I left to move home and do a diploma in Web Design (cough, not that you’d tell! There’s just no time) followed by an MSc in Multimedia Technology. I always thought that I would move back but came to London instead and have been here since.
  4. London
    London! My home away from home. I moved here as I was looking to live somewhere else and get a job that didn’t involve answering calls for a TV bingo show. That last bit was very important! Preferably one that was related to my recent education. It was a rough transition, I expected to love it straight away but this didn’t happen. I toyed with the idea of leaving for a couple of years but then London grew on me. It’s like when you first have an olive and it makes your eyes water, then one day you have a craving for them and realise that you love them! It’s a great city. So much on all the time, although, I have found that the secret to living here is to expect not to be able to do everything. You could drive yourself crazy otherwise. For food, it’s fantastic, there’s a restaurant from every country, food shops that would make your mouth water and beautiful big open spaces. I especially love the cheaper restaurants that do rustic food so well. London allows me to indulge in music, food & film in it’s wonderful shops, café’s, restaurants, venues and cinemas. It would be difficult for another city to compare although, Sydney provided a challenge last year![Read more]
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Dublin, briefly & Electric Picnic

How could I resist an indie music festival named after a food event? I couldn’t. My two passions, almost rolled into one. In a name anyway. Off I went after my trip to Paris to Stradbally, Laois in Ireland for Electric Picnic, the boutique music festival. I was really excited. I was going with some old friends I don’t see often enough to what promised to be one of the most fun festivals I had been to. Lots of bands I love – Clap your Hands Say Yeah, !!!, Iggy & the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Jarvis, the Good, the Bad & the Queen, My Brightest Diamond, the Go! Team, Ratatat… the list goes on and on. I was also assured of lots of late night dancing. Woohoo!

I landed in Dublin on Thursday afternoon rather shook after my late night return on the eurostar. I whizzed around camping shops (yes, sigh, camping) buying a sleeping bag, wellies (in Ireland it’s sure to rain) and other random essential bits and bobs. I was pleased to see the fruit sellers were still around, selling their fruit out of old prams. I stopped to take a photo when a teenage boy threw a grape out of my head (oh yes, I was home) to which I turned and pounced – “well, that was very funny boys, wasn’t it?!!”. Teacher mode! I have no idea where it came from and regretted it instantly as I was sure they would react negatively but, no, to my shock they denied it and pointed at their friend inside the shop door behind them, exclaiming – “it was him!”. They passed me about 10 minutes later further down the street and were eager to point him out again. So funny, I had to repress the laughter. So much so, that, in fact, it was very funny after all!

Once complete, I rested my weary legs and waited for some friends with a welcome latté & some soup, a nice big bowl of chunky irish vegetable soup. It was so soothing! Chunks of carrot, potato, celery & swede in a lovely stock. I miss it! It’s hard to find it like that in London, unless I make it myself of course. Shortly after this, the girls arrived and we headed to Fallon & Byrne’s wine cellar for some wine to rest our weary souls in. I had popped into Fallon & Byrne’s on a previous visit and was quite impressed with what I saw, a speciality supermarket & food hall, restaurant and wine bar in the cellar. We were all about the wine, the girls having just finished work and me, now three inches shorter, having carted my bags all over Dublin. I was so tired, I neglected to take photos, bar one of some paté and am now really annoyed with myself. For now, my words will have to do… It’s a nice big space, the supermarket is really airy with big windows and nice high ceilings, the downstairs wine bar was lined with shelves of wine bottles, an impressive selection, but was extremely busy and we had to wait to be seated. We ordered the house red and it was delicious, I will certainly go back to try more wine, eat lots of food and blog it here. A friend also had some very good paté, pic below. We had rather alot of wine that night and I am thankful that the nearby Japanese karaoke bar hadn’t any booths free at 1am!

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